David Oakley, now a lieutenant colonel serving as an assistant professor at National Defense University's College of International Security Affairs in Washington, D.C., considers his time at Pittsburg State University a milestone moment in his life.
"Pitt State was transformative for me. I wasn’t the world’s best high school student, I hadn’t found myself yet," he said. "I was able to discover myself here, find my passion – I and found my wife!"
On Oct. 13, he'll be back at PSU to accept one of three 2017 Dr. Kenneth K. Bateman Outstanding Alumni Awards at a reception in the Wilkinson Alumni Center, and will be honored during the Homecoming Parade and football game, as well.
"It was surprising and very exciting," said Oakley of learning of the award.
Oakley earned a bachelor's degree in political science from PSU in 1998, a master's degree in public administration from the University of Oklahoma in 2005, two masters of military arts and sciences degrees from the U.S. Army Command and General Staff College and the U.S. Army's School of Advanced Military Studies in 2012 and 2013, and a PhD in security studies from Kansas State University in 2016.
He has served nearly 20 years as a national security professional in the U.S. Army and the intelligence community.
Oakley began his career as a field artillery officer, but he got his start in the PSU Army Reserve Officer Training Corps.
He went on to serve in South Korea and Fort Sill, Oklahoma. He left active duty for a few years, serving as a Staff Operations Officer in the Central Intelligence Agency and as a contractor within the National Counterterrorism Center.
Since 2007, Oakley has served as a strategist at National Defense University in Washington, D.C., U.S Army North/Fifth Army in Fort Sam Houston, Texas, at Fort Leavenworth, Kansas, and with 1st Infantry Division at Fort Riley, Kansas, and in Iraq.
Oakley, who now lives in Ashburn, Virginia, is currently working on getting his first book, "Militarizing Intelligence: The CIA/DoD Post-Cold War Relationship," published. Oakley and his wife, Kristen Jensen Oakley (BA 1999), have four children, Taylor, who is 17, Tanner, who is 16, Tatum, who is 14, and Tyler, who is 8.
While at PSU, Oakley was elected president of the Student Government Association and the Senior Gifts Council and was a member of the Student Foundation Board and Lambda Chi Alpha.
"I don’t think I would have been able to go to a larger university and gotten as involved," he said.
He counts several faculty and administrators as important mentors, including former Vice President (Ret.) Col. Bill Hollenbeck, Assistant Professor of Political Science Mark Peterson, Emeritus Professor of Political Science Paul Zagorski, Master Sgt. Sam Haskins, and Major Jim Snyder. But one in particular was the most influential: (Ret.) Brigadier General Jim AuBuchon, who died Sept. 1.
"I looked up to him so much; he meant so much to me," Oakley said. "He took it upon himself to push me forward. I got really involved in campus, and that helped me find myself and give me new opportunities. Anything I accomplished in life, I credit to doing that and to people like Dr. AuBuchon. It’s hard for me to put into words, but it was a foundation that put me on the path to where I am today."